This Halloween, the most interesting/disturbing but eerily appropriate band is without a doubt England's Wild Beasts. I've sung there praises before and this year they've usurped the title, previously held by Sunset Rubdown. Halloween is, I think, the perfect autumn holiday because, in this season especially, the presence of death is so obviously everywhere that it's impossible to ignore. The golden harvest is over, but clusters of brightly coloured leaves hang on to bare branches with doomed resilience. The frailty, the beauty of time's passage, is never so immediate.
What began as a pagan festival, seemingly baptised by the Catholic Church's decision to relocate All Saints Day to the first of November (which was also the beginning of the new year until it was overrided by the Church), is still more or less pagan; and perhaps we need that (pagan) freedom to name death, to locate that absence which the saints have passed through, to find true communion. When you think about what Halloween's become --children in costumes visiting the houses of strangers and asking for candy-- it's easy to get cynical (especially for the particularly pietistic).
I complain about Halloween for a number of reasons. Some of them are more valid than others. Most of them have more to do with consumer culture and my own laziness. But thinking about the holiday's evolution, from an "pagan" pre-Christian festival to a failed product of Western empire-building renews my interest and appreciation in what is one of the weirdest holidays on the calendar. Fall is undoubtably my favourite season. I just wish it wasn't so damn cold.